The Daily Lessons of My First Month Post-Graduation

Katie O'Connell
Aug 8, 2019 · 7 min read

Author of “Live LIVE! Creating Community in Music Experiences”

After 18 years of structured learning, I wondered how I would “learn” after college. This week marks one month since I graduated from John Carroll University, a community that pushed me to learn in ways I couldn’t imagine about spirituality, communication, innovation, and leadership. I graduated without a job, moved back home, and started exploring my curiosity and reflecting on this transition.

I finished my first book Live LIVE!, launching July 27th in New York City and I booked a ticket to Seattle with a good friend. We leave today and will be driving around the wild west for 5-weeks while doing a collaborative project, ODE, that calls us all to pause, recognize and celebrate the people, places and moments that transform everyday life.

In the month since I graduated, I found a lesson in every day. Not from textbooks, group projects, or lectures like I had become accustomed to, but from immersing myself in the “real world,” as they say. Some lessons were profound — dealing with relationships, goodbyes and new beginnings. Others were practical — learning my social security number and understanding my insurance benefits. Some were simple reminders — don’t forget how to be a kid and start your day with someone you love. The point is, there is a lesson in every day and the lifelong adventure of learning is just beginning.

Here are the 31 lessons of my first 31 days post-graduate:

  1. May 20 packing up my college house in University Heights, Ohio. Lesson: Packing up is a sign it’s over. Don’t draw it out (too long).
  2. May 21 reading an article my mom sent me titled “With a cap and gown and broken heart” in the car with friends in route to Saxton, Pennsylvania. Lesson: Graduation is a HUGE moment, let it be and recognize it.
  3. May 22 playing kickball in Saxton with my closet college friends. Lesson: Childhood games are still fun. Don’t be afraid to let out your inner child.
  4. May 23 sitting on the front stoop of my college home for my final night. Lesson: Use final moments to celebrate and make a good memory. Don’t dwell on what is to come but relish in where you are now.
  5. May 24 at the local diner in University Heights, Ohio with my roommates an hour before I hit the road. Lesson: Pick a date and send it out, a reunion will manifest into existence.
  6. May 25 waking up in my childhood bedroom in La Grange, Illinois feet away from my younger sister. Lesson: Get up early and start your day with someone you love.
  7. May 26 I received this article from a friend where Logan Green, CEO of Lyft, calls recent graduates to be “purposefully direction-less.” Lesson: Even CEO’s of billion dollar companies were lost. In this state of “lost,” there is power in purpose. Maybe I am on to something with my “purposeful adventure” tagline?
  8. May 27 sitting in a local coffee shop working on my book, texting friends still hanging out around John Carroll and seeing an old friend as she gets off a long day of work in retail. “Still the same old BS,” she says. Lesson: College is one heck of a privilege from both the educational and community standpoint. It’s something special not a lot of people get to experience and what John Carroll offered me was something insanely unique.
  9. May 28 at Chase bank opening a credit card and trying to be an adult on my 22nd birthday. Lesson: Learn your social security number.
  10. May 29 at the Chet Faker concert at the Metro in Chicago after people talked through the opener, half a beer was spilled down my back, and I watched the best songs through the phone screen of the person in front of me. Lesson: Live LIVE! has value and the audience of my book needs to be the fans. We need a culture shift and we are the ones that must do it together, not the event producers or musicians.
  11. May 30 after an energizing session collaborating with a few friends on my book and ODE. Lesson: I really want to be a creator, bringing new ideas and communities into existence. (PSA. After my book launch at the end of July, I am looking for career opportunities to do just that!)
  12. May 31 spending time with a childhood friend and catching up on life happenings. Lesson: When I was away, I missed a lot. Sure, I could have checked in more but I am here now and I must honor where my feet are in the present moment.
  13. June 1 at lunch in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago with my cousin talking with the waitress about the new public art installation on the street. Lesson: Public art catches people’s eyes. People see it and form an opinion, good or bad, because it changes their daily environment.
  14. June 2 at my first wedding for a peer. Lesson: Love is an action that you can choose at any age when you find someone, you’re someone, worth caring about.
  15. June 3 booking a car for my trip out west. Lesson: You can wave the under 25 fees with USAA and when you a book a car, you don’t even have to give your credit card info or make a deposit…doesn’t seem real but it is!
  16. June 4 feeling anxious about sending out chapters of my book to the people I featured. Lesson: It is a great responsibility to capture a person’s story and character authentically.
  17. June 5 talking with Anthony on Michigan Avenue. Lesson: Take the jump, you can make something out of nothing.
  18. June 6 after talking with the VP of CX Innovation at Marriott International. Lesson: Design thinking and customer experience is where I need to learn and where I feel energized to learn.
  19. June 7 hanging out with two childhood friends who studied design in college. Lesson: Design thinking is a tool that can change the world. At the core it is human-centric, sparking positive experience.
  20. June 8 talking with my cousin’s grandma I had not seen in years. She shared she had my picture up in her kitchen. Lesson: I have more guardian angels on earth than I realize.
  21. June 9 on a little Wisconsin road trip with my mom. Lesson: I am my mother’s daughter.
  22. June 10 listening to new Allbirds episode of How I Built This. Lesson: There is a reoccurring theme of design being harnessed as a tool for innovation and positive change that continues to pop up in my life.
  23. June 11 attending a discussion panel with Life After Hate, a group founded by former extremist inspiring all people to a place of compassion and forgiveness. Lesson: Radical compassion, it is three parts. One: it has to be uncomfortable, it’s easy to give compassion to people we like. Two: we have to change our environment to be susceptible to compassion. Three: we must have compassion, have received and experienced it, to give compassion.
  24. June 12 an uneventful day. Lesson: Some days are just another day…that is okay. There is beauty in simplicity.
  25. June 13 talking to a stranger on the train whom I had a lot more in common than not. Lesson: It’s easy to look around a space and see differences but if you are in the same room, that is your first point of commonality and chances are, if you are in the same room, you can find something else in common too.
  26. June 14 at Panera listening to the older group sitting next to me. As the women sings a tune, the man with her asks, “We are alive right?” And she replies, “Yes, we are living.” As they leave he says, “I’ll see you Monday.” She responds “God Willing.” Lesson: There is beauty and vibrancy in life for many years to come if I’m are open to it and God’s willing.
  27. June 15 talking with my family about the 80/20 rule, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Lesson: It’s applicable in finance, where my brother first learned 80/20 rule, and it’s applicable in just about every other avenue of life. I’ll tell you what, 80% of my headaches come from 20% of my siblings (you know who you are).
  28. June 16 talking with my grandpa about the last time he visited Seattle. Lesson: I have a lot to learn about my family’s story. There is a rich history that should be written down.
  29. June 17 fine tuning my book (again). Lesson: If I give myself 8 hours to complete a task, I’ll take it all. If I give myself an hour, I can focus and figure it out.
  30. June 18 reading a book by Matthew Kelly. Lesson: The rule of threes. If I can recruit three strong followers to back my cause and I ask them to recruit three more to recruit their own three and so on, growth snowballs quickly. In six cycles we could reach 1,053 followers, eight cycles we could reach 9,477, and in just thirteen cycles we could reach over 2 million.
  31. June 19 hanging out with some rising seniors at John Carroll. Lesson: They are right where I was one year ago. A lot happens in a year. A lot happened this month alone.

I wonder, what will this next month bring? This next year?

It all is about to unfold, now, on my purposeful adventure.

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Katie O'Connell

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I am on a purposeful adventure and sharing stories along the way. Learn more about my experience and projects at

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